NEWS of the Day - August 19, 2009
on some LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - August 19, 2009
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From the LA Times


L.A. County to probe child welfare system

The Board of Supervisors orders the investigation to see what flaws in the system might have played a role in the deaths of three children.

by Garrett Therolf

August 19, 2009

Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to launch an investigation into potential flaws in the child welfare system that might have played a role in the deaths of three children over the last month.

Child welfare authorities had at one point investigated the care of the three children who died.

Statistics show that in the last three years, a dozen children or more have died annually as a result of abuse or neglect despite the fact that their cases had come to the attention of social workers.

The investigation would be the first intensive look at such cases since 2006.

"The county of L.A. must do everything it can to determine what happened in these cases, and what lessons can be learned from these tragic events," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in his motion for the inquiry.

Under the terms of the motion, the county's auditor-controller will conduct an inquiry in coordination with the Department of Children and Family Services and the Los Angeles County district attorney into the deaths of Dae'von Bailey, Lars Sanchez and Jasmine Granados.

The probe will include contacts with the family services department, all other county departments, law enforcement and private agencies.

Dae'von was beaten to death, allegedly by his mother's former boyfriend; Lars was decapitated by his mentally ill mother; and Jasmine died under suspicious circumstances while in foster care.

In an interview, Ridley-Thomas said that any information not protected by confidentiality laws would be released.,0,4417579,print.story


Innocents Betrayed: A Times Investigation

Fourteen children died of abuse and neglect in Los Angeles County last year despite coming from families that had been under the scrutiny of child welfare officials. The numbers underscore a larger problem. L.A. County has struggled for years to effectively monitor children at risk for abuse. Times reporters Garrett Therolf and Kim Christensen and others are examining the issue this year.

Out of the loop

August 19, 2009

L.A. County to probe child welfare system

Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to launch an investigation into potential flaws in the child welfare system that might have played a role in the deaths of three children over the last month.

August 18, 2009

Boy's death shows weaknesses of L.A. County's child welfare system

Nine months before the mother of a 4-year-old decapitated him with a Ginsu knife, the principal of a Highland Park preschool phoned Los Angeles County's child abuse hotline to report that the woman was screaming and shouting outside the building.

August 5, 2009

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina blames the system in slaying of young boy

A 4-year-old boy killed last month by his mother at their Highland Park home had been the subject of a botched child-abuse investigation, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said Tuesday. The mother committed suicide after decapitating her young son with a kitchen knife, according to police.

August 1, 2009

Clinic says it warned L.A. County that boy might be an abuse victim

Officials at a clinic that treated Dae'von Bailey six weeks before he was found beaten to death said Friday that their staff had warned social workers he might be an abuse victim, contradicting an account by the Los Angeles County child welfare department about how it dealt with the abuse allegations.

July 31, 2009

Boy's beating death prompts L.A. County agency to increase oversight of child abuse cases

Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services said Thursday that it would increase administrative oversight of child abuse investigations, review hundreds of past cases and provide more training to social workers and managers as officials deal with public outrage over the beating death of a 6-year-old boy last week.

July 30, 2009

Los Angeles boy's beating death came after two exams, records show

Months before the body of a beaten 6-year-old boy was found on the floor of his home last week, strong evidence existed to suggest that he was the victim of sustained abuse at the hands of the man now accused of killing him, according to documents obtained by The Times.

July 25, 2009

South L.A. boy died after previous reports of abuse

A 6-year-old boy whose battered body was found on the floor of a South Los Angeles home was the subject of roughly a dozen calls to Los Angeles County's child abuse hotline alleging abuse or neglect, a county official briefed on the case told The Times on Friday.

June 14, 2009


County dithered, children died

By the time he was rescued last year, the 5-year-old South Los Angeles boy was so malnourished his kidneys were failing. His hands were so badly burned he could barely open them.

Social workers protest perceived role in children's deaths

April 22, 2009

Shock, but no basis for surprise

One county supervisor expressed shock, another fired off a press release demanding an investigation. But Monday's revelations that 14 children died last year as the result of abuse or neglect despite being under the watch of child welfare authorities should have come as no surprise to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

April 21, 2009

Files detail deaths of 14 children

Fourteen children died of abuse and neglect in Los Angeles County last year despite coming from families that had been under the scrutiny of child welfare officials, records released Monday show.

March 8, 2009

How computers call the shots for L.A. County children in peril

There's no time to wash away the smell of sour milk from the baby's skin, so the mother wipes the dozing infant's face with the filthy bib hanging from his neck. "WIC cares about me," it reads, a reference to the free food program for poor women and children.

Audio slide show: A look at the people behind the process


Reality show contestant sought in model's death

Buena Park police say Ryan Alexander Jenkins, a Canadian national, was last seen with the victim, Jasmine Fiore, a former swimsuit model. Her body was found in a trash bin, stuffed inside a suitcase.

by Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

August 19, 2009

A contestant on a reality TV show was named a "person of interest" by police Tuesday in the case of a 28-year-old swimsuit model whose dead body was discovered stuffed into a suitcase and dumped into a Buena Park trash bin over the weekend.

Buena Park police say they want to talk to a Canadian national who was last seen with Jasmine Fiore last week at her Fairfax district home on Edinburgh Avenue. The man, Ryan Alexander Jenkins, a 32-year-old real estate developer from Calgary, reported Fiore missing Saturday.

Jenkins had been dating Fiore at the time of her death, according to the dead woman's mother. Fiore's body was discovered Saturday in a suitcase by a man who was searching a metal trash bin for recyclables in the 7400 block of Franklin Street. Police said it appeared that Fiore had been strangled.

Fiore had recently moved to Los Angeles from Las Vegas. She had worked two years ago as a commercial and swimsuit model, but was recently involved in a career transition, said her mother, Lisa Lapore.

Fiore and Jenkins had left Los Angeles together Thursday and were bound for a poker tournament in San Diego, according to Lapore, who had been staying with her daughter. Fiore left with her suitcase "packed to the gills . . . probably the same one she was stuffed in," Lapore said.

On Tuesday, Buena Park police said they were still trying to determine the relationship between Jenkins and Fiore, and said there were suggestions that the pair were married in Las Vegas. Lapore said she did not believe that a legitimate marriage had occurred.

Jenkins is believed to be driving Fiore's 2007 white Mercedes CL S550 with black rims and tinted windows, police said. Buena Park police investigators said the paper license plate that read "Platinum Motors" was replaced with the license plate HLY275, believed to be from Jenkins' black BMW sport utility vehicle.

Jenkins was a contestant on the VH1 reality show "Megan Wants a Millionaire." On the show, a woman dates various men, hoping to land a wealthy bachelor. On the show, Jenkins was described as an "investment banker."

Fiore had recently gotten a real estate license, set up a personal training business with a friend and was pursuing interests that included competing in equestrian events, her mother said.

Lapore said Jenkins had been working on another reality show that was being shot at his home. She said she was unaware of any problems between Jenkins and her daughter.

"They had issues, but I didn't hear anything extreme," Lapore said. "I'm worried they had a major blowout. Jasmine is pretty feisty and doesn't back down easily.",0,7432137,print.story


Testing Obama's effect on racial attitudes

One study finds a pro-black bias among white college students. Another suggests Obama's election closed an achievement gap. Others say nothing has changed. The Obama Studies field is just starting.

by Richard Fausset

August 19, 2009

Reporting from Tallahassee, FL

After decades of exposure to all of those stereotypes -- the Aunt Jemimas and the gangsta rappers, the Willie Hortons and TV drug dealers -- this just wasn't supposed to be happening.

The test results baffled Florida State University psychologist Ashby Plant. She checked and rechecked the figures. Something must be wrong, she told herself.

Plant and her colleagues had just administered a racial Implicit Association Test to 74 white college students. A common tool in psychology lab work, the IAT purports to measure the kinds of biases people may not admit or even know they harbor. It is one of the more troubling, and fascinating, realities in Plant's line of work that when the test is administered to whites, about 75% typically show some degree of anti-black bias.

But in this case, her subjects were displaying almost no bias against African Americans. In fact, about 45% appeared to be favoring blacks over whites.

"It made us stop dead in our tracks," she said. "I mean, this was unheard of."

It was spring 2008 -- a moment of mounting intensity in America's presidential race. It was also the moment when Plant, 40, found herself delving into a new sub-specialty with few precedents in the social sciences.

Call it Obama Studies.

It is a line of inquiry pursued by a small group of researchers, most of them experts in the nature of bias and prejudice. Their goal is to bring some scientific rigor to vexing questions that continue to ricochet around American dining rooms, the kind that were only amplified this summer with the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black: How are racial attitudes changing, if at all, in the age of the first black president?

Plant and her colleagues began speculating that their surprising numbers had something to do with the candidate Barack Obama. After all, his image was everywhere. Perhaps, they would later write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the students had been profoundly affected by repeated exposure to a man "whose qualities -- well-educated, motivated, articulate -- contradict the negative stereotypes of African Americans."

So they began designing an experiment to test their hypothesis.

Serious scientific inquiry into the nature of prejudice has largely been the domain of social psychologists, who study the way people interact with, think about and influence one another.

In the United States, the discipline began gathering steam after World War II, as German emigres sought to better understand the allure of Nazism. The latter half of the 20th century -- with its litany of cruelties, ethnic clashes and minority rights movements -- ensured that the burgeoning field would be strongly influenced by the course of history.

"We studied aggression after the riots of the 1960s, and we studied gender prejudice as the feminist movement was catching on in the 1970s," said David G. Myers, a social psychologist at Hope College in Michigan.

It is a discipline that tends to focus on big-picture questions (e.g., "What are the motivational sources of prejudice?") and hyper-specific biological observations (e.g., the role of certain brain regions in race-based fear responses). But with Obama's victory -- in a country where, 50 years ago, nearly half of white voters wouldn't consider voting for a black candidate -- a number of researchers now have turned their attention to the influence of one man.

Thus far, some of the most widely discussed test results have been contradictory. If there has been an "Obama effect" on racial consciousness, it's not clear yet what it is.

Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, conducted studies that suggested exposure to Obama's convention speech and election helped black students close an achievement gap with whites on a verbal aptitude test.

But in another study, a New York University researcher, Joshua Aronson, found that thinking about Obama had no discernible effect on black students' test scores.

At Stanford University, researchers led by graduate student Daniel Effron found what might be called a reverse Obama effect. In their studies, white Obama supporters showed favoritism for whites over blacks in certain hypothetical situations -- perhaps because by supporting Obama, they felt bestowed with non-racist "moral credentials" that made them more comfortable siding with fellow whites.

Plant is an animated and friendly woman with inquisitive brown eyes set in an open, thoughtful face. It is also a white face, and some of her memories growing up in Baltimore involve unpleasant encounters with the realities of race -- like the awkwardness of watching a stereotype-riddled TV show with her black best friend.

Over her years as a social psychologist, she has corralled hundreds of undergraduates and other volunteers into various university psychology labs to be virtually plumbed and prodded. The work, she argues, has real-world relevance: One of her recent studies, for instance, found that in severe emergency situations, whites were slower to help blacks than other whites.

Last year, she enthusiastically supported Obama for president -- although, she said, "having studied prejudice for so long, I have to admit that at times I doubted it could happen."

To determine if Obama had accounted for a true change of mind, Plant and her main collaborator, University of Wisconsin psychologist Patricia G. Devine, would have to overcome a problem that has shaped the course of their field more than any other in recent years: How to record people's racial attitudes when it has become taboo to openly voice prejudices?

One key tool is the Implicit Association Test. Developed in 1998 by University of Washington psychologist Anthony Greenwald and two other researchers, the test is still controversial among some scientists who question whether it can accurately measure such subtleties of thought.

The IAT puts participants in front of a computer, where they are prompted to press keys that correspond with words and faces that flash in front of them: the E key, say, for "white," and the I key for "black." Then they are asked to use the same keys to sort positive words, like "rainbow," from negative ones, like "vomit." The program mixes up the faces and the words: now, one key must be used to choose, say, both "black" and "good," and the other to choose both "white" and "bad."

The categories are then switched around in various combinations for more rounds of sorting. Meanwhile, a program measures how quickly the test-takers associate the positive or negative words with the black or white faces.

When the users consistently show hesitation in matching, say, black faces with positive words or whites with negative words, believers in the test see the possible work of powerful, unconscious forces. Whether we like it or not, they argue, the mind sometimes struggles to make certain associations.

They are biases to which minorities themselves are not immune: In studies involving thousands of test participants on the Internet, about 40% of blacks showed an anti-black bias, and roughly 1 in 3 Muslims showed an anti-Muslim bias, said Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia researcher who runs Project Implicit, the ongoing Web project.

Plant and her team didn't think they could show that Obama was the sole cause of reduced bias -- it would be difficult to isolate his influence, given all of the stimuli out in the world. But the researchers thought they might be able to at least show a correlation by devising a two-part test.

In the first part, 229 University of Wisconsin students, all nonblack, were given Implicit Association Tests, then asked, among other things, to list five thoughts that came to mind when they considered black people.

Once again, the students, as a group, failed to show much anti-black bias.

Researchers then noted if the participants listed any "positive black exemplars" -- for instance, Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. They found that students who listed a positive exemplar showed less bias on the IAT.

That alone was interesting, but was Obama the one reducing the bias scores? That required navigating around a big problem: "How do you know that somebody's thinking of Barack Obama when they're exposed to black people," said Plant, "without explicitly asking about Barack Obama?"

Their solution was to call in 79 nonblack students for an experiment at Florida State. They too were given an IAT. Separately, the researchers exposed them, subliminally, to the words "black" and "white" by flashing them on a computer screen for 55 milliseconds each. (The effectiveness of such subliminal "priming" in advertising remains in question, but psychologists have used it effectively to influence people's responses in lab settings for decades.)

The students then were shown a succession of letter groupings, some real words and some nonsense strings of letters, and asked to pick out the real words. Some of the words were crime-related. Other words were government-related, such as "politician" or "president."

This exercise would test how quickly the students were able, when primed with the word "black," to pick out the positive, government-style words, as compared with the negative words.

The researchers compared the results of the subliminal exercise to the IAT results. In essence: Those who responded more quickly to government-related words when primed with the word "black" also showed lower implicit prejudice.

The researchers concluded that Obama's rise seemed to have influenced "the underlying associations at least some people carry around in their minds about black people."

They also warned against drawing "overly strong conclusions," and, in fact, Nosek, the psychologist who co-manages Project Implicit, said an analysis of 479,000 people tested online in recent months showed little evidence of changes in bias that can be attributed to Obama. Still, Nosek said, he expects that the first black president will change Americans' deepest racial attitudes. "It's just that we don't know yet what those changes will be," he said.

Despite the conflicting conclusions, Plant believes she is on to something -- so much so that she is now trying to determine if she can design a study that would isolate Obama as cause of lowered bias.

Its design has consumed Plant and her research assistants much of the summer. In late June they gathered in a conference room in Florida State's psychology building to see where they stood.

Plant nodded to graduate student Corey Columb, 23, who sat across the table. "The idea Corey had -- an idea which I think is very clever -- is to temporarily undo the [Obama] effect," Plant said. "You could, in a sense, reset people to where they might have been before their exposure to him. Then, possibly, expose people to him again."

In other words: since they assume that Obama has inoculated people against bias, they hoped to temporarily reinfect a few volunteers. Then they would reintroduce half of them to images of Obama, to see if he could cure them.

But what black image could serve, for these purposes, as the anti-Obama?

"The ones we've come up with so far that would be relevant to the generation here at the university would be O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson," Columb said, though he added that they were struggling. Would students know Simpson? And wasn't Mike Tyson sort of rehabilitating his image?

They left the matter unsettled. A new round of experiments will start later this year. At the same time, Plant's Wisconsin colleagues will begin calling in groups of students each week to ask them about Obama's performance and administer the IAT.

After all, there are endless opportunities for a president to become entangled in scandal or escalate racial tension. The anti-Obama could always turn out to be Obama himself.,0,7343633,print.story


Take the prejudice test yourself

The Implicit Association Test, used in studies of the 'Obama effect,' seeks to measure subconscious biases.

August 19, 2009

How biased are you?

Developed in 1998, the Implicit Association Test seeks to measure the subconscious or "implicit" biases that people may not admit, or even know, they harbor.

Critics say its methods -- which involve measuring the taker's ability to rapidly categorize words and images -- cannot begin to describe the complex and nebulous sentiments that trigger bias and prejudice. Its designers say it offers insights into how people perceive others.

You can take several tests online -- including one focusing on race -- by visiting: .

Your results, though anonymous, will be compiled with millions of others as part of a database for psychologists to rely on in their ongoing study of bias and prejudice.,0,2521497,print.story